Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nieves, Mujica, and More Red Sox Ramblings

It's been a busy off day for the Red Sox! The team is 28 games into the regular season, and they enter their off day with a 13-15 record. The Sox are in last place in the AL East all by themselves, four games behind the Yankees. The Sox are 3-7 in their last 10 games, which is the worst 10-game mark in the American League. Only the Rockies have been worse in their last 10 games in all of baseball. The Sox have responded by firing Juan Nieves and DFA'ing Edward Mujica. Let's break down some Red Sox thoughts banging around in my head as the Sox travel to Toronto for a series starting tomorrow night at the Rogers Centre:
  • The news came down this morning that the Red Sox have DFA’d Edward Mujica. This, combined with the fact that Matt Barnes was switched into a relief role in Pawtucket, seems to indicate that Barnes will be added to the Boston bullpen for the Blue Jays series. To this, I say, FINALLY!!!!!! WHY HAS IT TAKEN UNTIL MAY 7 TO REALIZE THAT MUJICA IS TERRIBLE AND BARNES IS ONE OF THE ONLY PITCHERS ON THE 40 MAN ROSTER CAPABLE OF GENERATING A 95+ MPH FASTBALL AND SWING AND MISS STUFF?!?!? Seriously though, it was clear in Spring Training that Barnes was the only Red Sox reliever with a 97 mph heater and he was capable of being a major league relief pitcher. The only reason to roll with Mujica and Varvaro was to try to prove that the Red Sox brass didn’t make mistakes in signing Mujica to a 2 year/$9.5 million contract and trading for Varvaro. Mujica finishes his inglorious Red Sox career with 73.2 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 84 hits (!), and only 51 K. For those counting at home, that’s $42,986 for every out he recorded with the Red Sox, with meatballs galore along the way. The only thing Mujica ever did right was plunk Jacoby in the ass, and it took him three tries to do that. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Edward. I don’t expect Barnes to come up and be Dellin Betances, but he is better than the Mujica, Varvaro, Ross Jr, Breslow, Layne, Hembree, pu pu platter that we’ve been running out there in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings so far this year. Barnes will at worst become their fourth best reliever, and with the struggles of Tarawa and Ogando this week, he might be their best setup guy within a month. I’m cheering for you, Barnsie! 
  • As I write this post, news is hitting Twitter that the Red Sox have fired pitching coach Juan Nieves. This comes as a bit of a surprise to this blogger, but when the players you’re responsible for perform this poorly, you have to own the consequences. The Red Sox front office clearly thought they had the guys in Buchholz, Miley, Porcello, Kelly, and Masterson to have a good rotation this year, and their performance has been way below expectations. They gave a three year contract to Wade Miley before he threw a pitch with the Red Sox and he has been a disaster. Bottom line is it’s Nieves’ job to get the most out of these guys. Somebody has to take the blame, and it’s falling on Juan’s shoulders. The reaction on twitter seems to be fairly split between “How is this his fault? He’s saddled with terrible pitchers!” to “Good riddance! First Mujica, now Nieves, and Buchholz should join them!” To me, if there is blame on the coaching staff here, and there has to be, it should be on the top guy: Farrell. He is supposed to be a pitching guru. Here’s the bottom line question: which pitcher has gotten better in three years of working under John Farrell and Juan Nieves? I’m not sure you can point to a single pitcher that has made great strides under Nieves. The Sox have got to get better. The question now becomes, who replaces him?
  • We might be one or two more bad starts away from acquiring another power arm for the bullpen: Joe Kelly. I know he is a guy that the Red Sox were hoping would blossom into a top of the rotation guy or even an ace, but so far he has just not been able to consistently control the strike zone, work ahead of hitters, or get deep into games. In a one-inning-at-a-time role, Kelly could probably dial his heater up to 98-100 mph. Eduardo Rodriguez looks like he is ready for a big league call-up any day now. I think this won’t happen until June at the earliest, as the Sox will want to see what the bullpen looks like with Barnes out there, want to give Kelly more time to develop consistency, and give Rodriguez more seasoning at AAA. But it’s worth putting on the back burner.
  • What is Daniel Nava still doing on this team? The guy has clearly lost whatever contract he signed with the devil in exchange for his 2013 performance, and has crashed back down to be the AAAA-type journeyman that he was probably always meant to be. He’s 6/42 this season, including 0 for his last 19. With the game on the line last night, he came up to pinch hit for Allen Craig, looked like he had no chance, and promptly tapped out to first. In the preseason, John Farrell explained that Shane Victorino was going to the the starting RF, partly because “we haven’t forgot what he did for us”. Meaning, he maybe wasn’t the best player, but we sure did appreciate that nice run we had back in 2013! I wonder if they’re hanging onto Nava for the same reason. Gee, it’s nice that we’re hanging onto some nice guys, but it seems to me like some guys that can hit big league pitching would be even better. With Victorino coming back, Jackie Bradley Jr hitting at AAA, and Rusney Castillo working his way back into health, Nava’s days are numbered anyway, but he needs to go the way of Varvaro and Mujica sooner rather than later. Garrin Cecchini has been playing the OF for Pawtucket and hits left-handed. You’re telling me he couldn’t be doing better than Nava in Boston right now? Yeah, he’s slashing .187/.208/.280, but still!!
  • Last night in the 8th inning, Mike Napoli singled to left to move David Ortiz to second base. John Farrell elected to pinch run for Big Papi with the newly-acquired Luis Jimenez. After all, the runner on second represented the tying run, the Red Sox were five outs away from another loss, and Ortiz is so slow these days he was almost thrown out on a force play at second when Napoli’s laser beam fell under the glove of the Rays’ left fielder. You know what happened next: the Red Sox loaded the bases (Jimenez became the runner on third, which meant Ortiz would have scored on basically any batted ball that Jimenez could score on), failed to score on two tappers to first, and then Jimenez came up in the bottom of the 9th in Ortiz’ spot in the order with two men on and two out with the Red Sox down two runs. Because the Red Sox have not elected to put Hanley Ramirez on the 15-day DL yet, and because they elected to pinch hit the punchless Nava for the equally punchless Allen Craig the inning before, only Sandy Leon remained on the bench. Jimenez predictably grounded out, weakly. So what do you think? Do you think John Farrell made the right call in pinch running for Ortiz in the 8th? It’s easy to use hindsight and say that they should have kept Ortiz in the game since his spot in the order came up in the 9th, but to me no matter the outcome, it’s bad game management to take Ortiz’ bat out of your lineup in that spot. How many balls could have been hit that Jimenez could have scored from second on that Ortiz could not? Only a single to center or right that falls in front of the fielder, right? Otherwise, Ortiz scores on the same hits. And since the runner represented the tying run instead of the winning run, there’s a good possibility if he did score that they would be headed to extra innings, where Ortiz’ bat would definitely be needed. If the Sox had a better pinch hitting option left on the bench in case the spot came up, I would have been in favor. If it had been the bottom of the 9th and that was the tying or winning run, I would have been in favor. But to do it then, and then be forced to have a career .217 hitter be your last out? Poor game management in my opinion.
  • Speaking of making a decision on Hanley, how long are we going to wait? If Hanley is not healthy enough to even pinch hit, then shouldn’t they put him on the DL now and give him two full weeks to rest so he doesn’t aggravate the injury further? How many more nights with a short bench and Luis Jimenez/Sandy Leon at-bats will we have to sit through before the Sox make a decision and open up a roster spot?
  • The Yankees are hate-able again! The Sox/Yanks rivalry has fizzled out in recent years, due to both teams missing the playoffs, being irrelevant, losing the hated players of old, etc. But it’s back now! Between the disgusting pubic mustaches, Jacoby Diva Ellsbury hitting everything and calling out the Sox in post-game soundbites, A-Rod doing A-Rod things with his purple lips, Mark Texieria’s mouth breathing, Andrew Miller-dominant-closer, and Joe Girardi’s lemon-sucking puss face, the hatred is back in a big way, baby. 
  • While the Sox are stumbling as of late, the AL East has given no indication of having a dominant team or two that is going to run away with the crown. The Sox are in last, but reside only 4 game out of first, which is the smallest gap between any first and last place teams in the majors. While the Red Sox did not take advantage of a 22 game stretch of games against AL East opponents (quite the opposite, actually), they didn’t dig a hole they can’t climb out of, either.
  • And finally, Mookie. Good lord, Mookie. The quick-bat power. The speed to turn a monster wall-ball into an easy stand-up double. The gold chain. I love it. All of it.


  1. Wow this is a bombshell, but the more I think about it, it shouldn't be. When the Red Sox had that meeting a week or so ago with the whole pitching staff the author of the article said something like, and I'm paraphrasing "The Red Sox had a meeting with the two catchers, the whole pitching staff, John Farrell and 'presumably' Juan Nieves". When I read that I had a fleeting moment where I thought that was a red flag and then I just kind of shrugged it off. Another warning sign is that every time a pitcher is struggling and Nieves goes to the mound nothing seems to get better. Last night being the case and point with Justin Masterson.

    I'm all for the Mujica/Barnes swap.

  2. Any thoughts as to who the new pitching coach will be???

  3. Some names that were mentioned in the ProJo weekly chat: Charles Nagy per a Peter Gammons tweet, Pedro Martinez in the form of a reader question, and Jason Varitek in the form of sarcasm from Tim and/or Brian.

  4. If Ortiz had been thrown out trying to score from 2nd on a base hit we all would have been screaming that Farrell should have pinch run for him. The move that Farrell made last night was the right one. It just goes to show you that everything that can go wrong with this team can go wrong. Once you do pinch run for him the worst case scenario is that his spot comes up again with the game on the line in the ninth. And of course that's what happened. When it rains it pours.

  5. Multiple reports are two leading candidates to replace Nieves. Bob Kipper, AAA PC and the AAA Indians PC, Carl Willis, with around 8 years as MLB PC with Cleveland ( when Farrell was in front office) and Seattle. Willis seems to be top candidate.